Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Education released the bulk of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to state education agencies. It was the largest-ever one-time investment in the nation’s schools, and 1% of it was set aside for summer learning programs.
Research shows summer matters for kids. Studies by Rand and the Annenberg Institute found that high-quality summer learning programs can result in meaningful academic benefits, particularly in math, and can help students better connect with their schools and peers. In the face of historic declines in math scores and declines in reading, children need this summertime boost now more than ever.
With ESSER funds available this summer and next before they expire, state and district education leaders should seize this opportunity to collect data on existing summer offerings, make improvements and build evidence-based programs in jurisdictions where they do not exist.
A research brief from the EdResearch for Recovery Project can provide a roadmap, highlighting eight design principles – including program duration, attendance, use of time and quality of instruction – that matter most in creating effective programs that deliver strong academic benefits for students.